Righteous or Self-Righteous

Righteousness in the Bible carries two essential meanings. First, it is the state of being right according to God’s standards. The other meaning carries the sense of having been declared not guilty. One who is declared not guilty, is not of necessity living righteously. Throughout the Bible, God declared many people righteous, but it is through faithfulness to live according to His standards that they became righteous people. To be clear, Christians are declared righteous by our faith in Christ’s completed work of atonement. But whether we develop righteous character is entirely up to us.

The sin of Adam and Eve removed them from a proper relationship with God, and their response was to make themselves coverings to fix their sense of nakedness. The nakedness they recognized was their own unrighteousness. When their self-righteous act of covering failed, they essentially gave up, turning away from God and hiding. These same tendencies live in all of us.

What coverings or disguises do I use to assuage my own guilt? Most of us revert to certain acceptable religious practices. For some, it may be keeping a particular set of rules. For others, it is increased church attendance or volunteer work. Others may rely on prolonged prayer or more time in study of the scriptures. Although none of these are evil or wrong in themselves, they often are coverings for our Adam-like nakedness. We recognize our sense of being out of step with God, so we turn to our own efforts instead of turning to Him for mercy and help in our time of need. Then once we recognize that our self-righteous acts don’t fix us, we simply give up.

Overcoming self-righteousness is an impossible feat, unless we continually remind ourselves that our righteousness was granted to us as a gift from our loving heavenly Father. The more we clearly see the gift of righteousness, the less likely we are to rely on our own efforts to develop a righteous lifestyle.

The epistle to the Romans is the most exhaustive resource for helping us understand God’s gift of declared righteousness. The first eight chapters are filled with Paul’s logical discussion of how God, through Christ, made righteousness available to all who trust in him. But, learning to live righteously is found in the practical side of Romans, beginning in chapter twelve.

Romans 12:1,2 (REV)
“I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can test and approve what the will of God is—the thing that is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Adam and Eve took the two steps of covering and hiding, but we are to take two very different steps of “not conforming” and “being transformed”. Over time, as we continually deny the worldly influences of our age and embrace the truths of God’s grace, we become transformed. We do not transform ourselves through religious acts, but we become transformed as we are obedient to God. Living this way is how we develop righteous character that is pleasing to God and loving toward our neighbor.

Love In Christ,